Chief Seattle
~ Jerry Pope

Chief Seattle or in the Lushooteed the language of

his people is known as See-atch.

The first thing to know that despite the popular name

white people called him he was not a hereditary chief.

Among the Native people of his area there were village

chiefs, and some of these villages were responsible for various needs of his people. These people are now known as the Puget Sound Nation. There were for instance hunting chiefs, fishing chiefs, etc. He was one of the headmen of one of the fishing villages.

Chief Seattle had mastered the English language in schools of the white settlers of the area. He thus was considered a great orator. It was in the year of 1854 made his famous speech. At the presentation ceremony, the speech was considered the voice of his people, who had been decimated by conflict and white man diseases. The treaty drawn up at the time was being violated and his people were protesting the violations.

Chief Seattle was buried on the Kitsap Peninsula, from where the modern city of Seattle can easily be seen. The village he lived in continues throughout the history of the area and is a vital community at present time.

Chief Seattle’s father was Schweabe, a Squamish Tribe chief from Bainbridge Island which is across the Puget sound. There is a well-known book published by the Suqwamish. Among his people it was known that his tribe was recognized as the mother of the hereditary branch.

His mother, Scholitza was the daughter of a Duwamish chief.

According to historian Charles Bagley, Chief Seattle was an excellent warrior, daring and courageous, and showed to be a generally  skilled leader in battle. Once he rose to power he had control of six separate tribes! He managed to have good relations with the settlers of the area as well as the military leaders.

That famous speech was in December of 1854 and was given in what is known as downtown Seattle. The only known version of it comes from the pen of Dr. Henry A. Smith, a settler and amateur poet who was present and detailed notes at the time. But Smith didn’t speak Lushootseed, the language in which Chief Seattle gave the speech, and he waited 30 years before he transcribed his notes about the speech.

Chief Seattle’s daughter, called “Princess Angeline” by local European-Americans, lived out her old age in a waterfront shack in present-day downtown Seattle. A young photographer, Edward S. Curtis, who often saw her in Seattle, became intrigued by her and often photographed her and talked with her. This original work led Mr. Curtis to pursue his interest of American Indians.

Chief Seattle was always intrigued by Europeans and their culture, and he later became good friends with Doc Maynard, the adventurous, hard-drinking entrepreneur who more than anyone helped establish the city of Seattle. Chief Seattle saved Doc Maynard from an assassination attempt by another Indian. Chief Seattle also helped protect the small band of European-American settlers in what is now Seattle from attacks by other Indians. Because of his friendship and help, at the urging of Doc Maynard, the settlers named their city after him.

Because of Chief Seattle’s good relations with the settlers, it was the city’s founders that decided to honor the chief by naming the city after him.




Photo: Nora Moore Lloyd